I planted two fields of eggplant, which wilted. I plowed them up and planted strawberries, which I later harvested for a nice profit. Then I was annoyed by something called the Annoying Orange.

Fresh produce in the brave new virtual reality

Larry Waterfield

What? Yes, this is the new language we now use.

The virtual world. The eggplant and strawberries were on Farm Ville by Zynga, the virtual farming game on Facebook. Someone got me into the game, where you plant crops — mostly produce — harvest them and get virtual money, which you use to buy more seeds, or buy gifts or send gifts to other players.

There are an estimated 23 million players, 60% of them women. Some companies are tying into the game by offering deals. One is Green Giant Fresh, with 25 products featuring stickers containing codes that can be entered online for “farm cash.”

The Annoying Orange is over on YouTube, the Internet site with endless video clips.

The Orange, an animated talking piece of fruit, annoys and harasses other produce items, including apples, tomatoes, sweet corn and pears. Various Annoying Orange clips have been viewed by 170 million people, which must indicate we have too much time on our hands.

Some of us in the older generation are accused of not keeping up with the new technologies, of being techno-phobic or unable to compete in this computer virtual world.

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. I started using a personal computer in 1986, with word processing and e-mails. That was in the days of old MS-DOS.

I was there when The Packer started one of the first online computer services — 25 years ago. It was a proprietary, dial-up subscription service with vast amounts of produce information, from weather to prices to truck rates.

It never made money, which is the computer plight today of media, ranging from newspapers to magazines. It’s hard to charge for information people expect to get for free.

I have Skype on my computer, with the little camera, that allows me to see the people I’m talking to on the phone. It has its limitations.

My grandkids, all under the age of 8, run up to the camera, make a face, then disappear. That tends to negate the value of a video phone.

Twitter? I don’t do that. The name itself sounds unbelievably trite and frivolous. Why would I assume anyone would want to read, on an hourly basis, my deathless musings?

These technologies are useful tools, and no one wants to go back to the good old days.

For those of an older age, something else is going on. It’s a sense of priorities. There is no longer a sense that time is endless, so it’s OK just to fill time.

There is an awareness of that sun dial inscription in the old movie, “Gone With the Wind”: “Do not waste time. It is the stuff that life is made of.”

Frankly, I’d rather spend one hour playing cards or drawing pictures with my granddaughter than 12 hours playing Farm Ville or tweeting. Call me old-fashioned.

Like most journalists these days I do a lot of Internet reporting. That is, going to Internet sites and databases to get information. This data mining is going to grow and grow. In fact, computer data will know more about you than you know about yourself.

You and I forget things. In the digital world there is no forgetting of anything — as long as you do a backup.

Data mining allows retailers and marketers to carefully, surgically target their customers, discern their likes and dislikes, offer them deals and coupons.

Your refrigerator may have a chip that will remind you to restock the produce drawer with your favorite items.

A smart shopping cart will bombard you with messages and suggestions as you walk through a store. You’ll get offers and sales pitches on your smart phones and iPhones.

Already I am being digitally stalked by business. Suddenly all my Google searches trigger an ad for a certain cruise line company I’ve used.

In this technological jungle there are also venomous snakes. Fraudsters pose as your bank or credit card company and “phish” for your vital information.

The digital and virtual world will continue to expand. It may expand exponentially, and we’ll be increasingly dependent on it to the point where we cannot function alone.

Science fiction writers can imagine a time when a kind of consciousness emerges from the connected computers, and they look around and see that the flaw in the system is us and begin to debug it, with us as the bug. That’s just science fiction, right?


E-mail lww4@verizon.net

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